Protagonist of her own story
Article from the Sun daily by Denissa Goh (posted on 10 November 2016)
RIGHT after completing high school, Olivia Tan May Shyan– or fondly known as Olivia Shyan in the entertainment industry – was persuaded by her parents to get a job before enrolling into college.
Although timid by nature, Tan knew she was born to stand out and her itch to defy mediocrity led to her first exposure in the entertainment industry: as an extra in a Johnnie Walker commercial.
Despite the minor role, the young lady of Chinese, American, Spanish and Thai descent believes in doing her best in every endeavour, big or small. Her professionalism snagged her a role in the second season of Bola Cinta, a Malay television series that gained local and international recognition.
That gig boosted her confidence and subsequently landed her more roles in local dramas, and then to the international entertainment scene with Netflix's Marco Polo in 2014.
Today, the passion for showbiz remains embedded within the 24 year-old. Apart from her involvement in Astro First's upcoming drama Gantung, Tan also hosts events and stars in television commercials.
Can you recall the moment you got the role with Netflix?
At first I thought it seemed dodgy because I was approached via Facebook Messenger to audition for the role. I ignored the message, but the person was very persistent and asked if he could call me. So I thought, what do I have to lose? After talking to him over the phone, I went for the audition still thinking it was a hoax until I saw the guy who answered the door – it was Dan Minahan, the director of Game of Thrones. Then I knew it was real.
How did you juggle between Marco Polo and studying for your Bachelor of Arts?
I was flying back and forth to Johor – where they shot it – for a month in between my studies. So I would be filming during the weekends and coming back to study on weekdays. It involved a lot of organising and time management – I'd whip out my laptop and do my assignments in between takes!
Being in the entertainment industry is not all that glamorous, they say. What would be its least glamorous part for you?
Working with people who are unprofessional and sleazy in any way.But I think there is an unglamorous part in every industry; you just have to be thick-skinned and get over it.
What keeps you going then?
Passion, perseverance and knowing exactly what you want and where you are heading.
What are the important qualities do you think an actor needs to have in order to survive the industry?
Strong personality, perseverance and determination because you need to decide if you want to stay in the industry or not. And if you do, you need to plan what you want to do and achieve; be realistic.
How about the most important lesson you've learnt so far being in this industry?
It's clichéd but I think the most important thing is to just be yourself. The moment you try to be someone else, you become a discounted version of that person you were trying to emulate. It's okay to look up to someone but trying to be someone else is such a waste because there's no one else like you. Always aim to be the best version of yourself, not a cheap version of someone else.